Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Attorney Benjamin Eichholtz Loses Prison Reporting Stay Request

According to various news reports, including the Augusta Chronicle, Georgia attorney Benjamin Eichholtz has lost his motion asking a federal judge to stay his reporting to federal prison while he appeals his sentence. He must now report to prison on May 21st.
Have you see the Eichholtz law firm's television commercials? Naturally, the photograph above is not a depiction of Mr. Eichholtz. Instead, I am confident you recognize that it is a photograph of Robert Vaughn, who not only is a popular actor, but also has been the television ad spokesman for the Eichholtz law firm.
According to news reports, Eichholtz had entered a guilty plea in federal court to a charge of obstructing a federal investigation into his alleged misuse of his law firm's pension and retirement accounts. According to published reports, he was recently sentenced to serve 21 months in prison. He is due to voluntarily surrender to federal prison on May 21st. His criminal lawyers had reportedly argued that Eichholtz should be allowed to remain free on bond during the appeal. They apparently reasoned that, even if he won his appeal on sentencing issues, the victory would be moot if he had already served the full prison sentence. However, the federal judge reportedly determined that the appeal would likely be determined before the time he would be released, if he did win a sentencing reduction in his appeal. Therefore, the Judge ruled that Eichholtz would be required to begin serving his sentence on his scheduled reporting date.
In my opinion, Eichholtz's attorneys raised an interesting issue. In other cases, it is possible that a defendant might win a federal sentencing guidelines issue on appeal, but because they have already served their sentence, the sentencing reduction victory is rendered moot. As a former federal prosecutor, I actually once saw this occur in the sentencing appeal in a defendant's medicare fraud case.
But, unfortunately for Mr. Eichholtz, the issue did not work or apply in his case. In my opinion, the Judge reached the proper decision in this case. And not even a fine celebrity spokesman like Robert Vaughn can help in a situation like this!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Selling and Counterfeiting Golf Tournament Tickets

I am a former federal prosecutor who now practices law with my oldest son in Augusta, Georgia. Augusta is the home of the famous Masters Golf Tournament. The Augusta Chronicle has just reported that 66 people were charged with improperly selling Masters tickets and badges too closely to the Augusta National during the recent Masters Golf Tournament. Georgia law generally prohibits folks from selling tickets within 2,700 feet of the sports venue and prohibits ordinary citizens from selling tickets for more than face value.
As a former federal prosecutor, I once prosecuted two different groups of businessmen for manufacturing and selling counterfeit Masters badges. It was bad enough that the men wanted to fraudulently get into the tournament themselves. But it was doubly bad that they also manufactured some decent quality fake badges for sale, too.
Thousands of fans enjoy the Masters Golf Tournament each year. Most never violate the criminal law. I guess that, as long as the tournament exists, there will always be a few people who break the law, won't there? But I guess that since I am now a criminal defense lawyer, maybe that's good for business!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Danielle Steel and How to Avoid Being a Crime Victim?

How many of you are fans of the books of popular romance novelist, Danielle Steel? According to Wikipedia, the prolific writer has sold over 580 million copies of her books!
But sadly, even famous writers, including Ms. Steel, like everyone else, can be crime victims, too. Have you read the news reports that her former long-time assistant has just been sentenced in a San Francisco federal court to serve 3 years in prison for reportedly embezzling nearly $1 million from Ms. Steel?
No one can really speculate about how this particular crime occurred. But, generally, in many cases, employee embezzlement can be difficult to prevent or detect. As a former federal prosecutor, I prosecuted a number of embezzlement cases that had gone undetected for years, until the perpetrator made a mistake.
Such cases generally prove you should always have checks and balances in place to help keep folks honest. And sadly, criminal cases like this one also suggest that you can never fully trust anyone any more. Don't you agree?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Sad Truth About A Few Government Prosecutors

I will never forget a fellow federal prosecutor's observation that he liked to hang around the courtroom, near defendant's families, after guilty verdicts and "draw warmth from their suffering." Doesn't that sound awful?! Now, this particular prosecutor meant his observation only as a joke. But let me tell you, after working around hundreds of prosecutors, both state and federal, for over 27 years, I have known some prosecutors who probably feel that way. In other words, they seem to relish the infliction of pain on defendants and their families!

Put another way, some prosecutors don't really care if they make mistakes and hurt innocent people and their families. Others are simply interested in putting another notch in their career holsters.

Now, don't get me wrong! Most prosecutors that I have worked with, in both state and federal courts, are good, decent public servants. They genuinely try to do the right thing. And they care about the impact of their prosecutorial decisions.

But my point is that there are some--at least a few--prosecutors who don't belong in such positions, because they lack good judgment and human decency. As a result, if you or your loved ones ever face criminal charges, even if you are innocent, it is imperative that you find a good, experienced criminal lawyer in your community to defend you. You should not simply assume that, just because you are innocent, the prosecutor will "do the right thing" and let you go!

And you surely don't want some over-zealous prosecutor hanging around the courtroom, after your wrongful conviction, and drawing warmth from your family's suffering!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

National Tax Day: I.R.S. Agents Need A Hug, Too!

Today is April 15, 2010. It's the dreaded day when all taxpayers must file their income tax returns. Naturally, no one, especially today, loves the I.R.S.! Also, over the years, the I.R.S. has become notorious for zapping many American citizens. Many times, their actions have been justified, including the tax evasion prosecution of the infamous Chicago gangster, Al Capone. Other times, the agency has been criticized, especially when they have raided the homes of average citizens and taken little kids' piggy banks.

But can I tell you a secret? As a former federal prosecutor, I loved handling income tax evasion prosecutions! And I never lost a single tax case! Not only were the I.R.S. agents well trained, but also you should see the well organized case reports they put together for federal prosecutors! I.R.S. agents really know how to spoil federal prosecutors with great, slam dunk cases! And you also should know that most I.R.S. agents I worked with were good, decent folks, too!

So, even though this may be tax day, and even though no one likes the I.R.S., please just remember that many I.R.S. agents are good people and that sometimes they, like you and me, need a hug, too! But not when they take our kids' piggy banks!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Goolsby "War Story:" Winning and Lessons Learned From Losing!

As a former federal prosecutor, I was very fortunate to have won nearly every criminal case I ever tried. In fact, in my 20 year career as an AUSA, I lost only one jury trial. It was a relatively minor public corruption case. But the facts of that case aren't important here. And the reasons why I lost this one trial aren't particularly significant here, either.
Instead, the point of this post involves the important lessons I learned from losing this one case. In perspective, the trial occurred very early in my career. I had been a federal prosecutor for only about 18 months. I had expected and prepared to try another criminal case that week. The other case would have been a slam dunk. But that defendant pled guilty at the last minute and I was left to try this other case for which I was, quite frankly, less prepared. I also had a lousy federal agent helping me on the case I tried. For various reasons, I had not pushed him to produce a winning case. And we went down in flames! I felt horrible! To top it off, my parents had come to see me in action that week. Sadly, this one loss -- this one blemish on my otherwise perfect trial record -- would be the only jury trial my father would ever see me try! Sadly, he died soon thereafter.
But I learned some important lessons from this loss. For example, I learned never again to walk into a courtroom without being ready to try all of my cases. I also developed a better work ethic. I also learned never again to settle for a lazy agent's excuses for not helping me to get a case ready for trial. In short, I learned to demand more from myself and from my case agents. As a result, I never lost another federal case!
Looking back, I believe that losing this one case, early on, may have been instrumental in changing the rest of my career. It instilled in me a drive to succeed -- to never again feel the "agony of defeat!" As a result, I believe that this one loss is responsible for helping me never to lose again!
How has losing helped you to become a winner?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Do Innocent Defendants Need a Criminal Lawyer?

"But he is innocent. Does he really need a criminal lawyer?" Can you guess my response to this recent question from a client's parent?
"YES," I quickly replied. Arguably, an innocent person needs a good, experienced criminal lawyer even more than a guilty one! And I am not just saying that simply because I am a criminal defense attorney! (After all, please also consider the fact that, as a former federal prosecutor for over 20 years, I have experienced our criminal justice system and seen all its flaws from different perspectives).
Admittedly, our criminal justice system works well, at least most of the time. In other words, in most cases, an innocent person will likely be found not guilty by a judge or jury. But no system involving human beings is, (or ever can be), perfect. Mistakes do occur. Indeed, the Innocence Project has an incredible track record of clearing, through DNA analysis, well over 200 innocent, but convicted, defendants. I have also read other criminal conviction statistics, (concerning percentages of defendants who were wrongly convicted), which suggest that anywhere between .023% and .09% of innocent defendants are convicted.
But these are just numbers. You and your loved ones are real people. So, in my opinion, even if the odds are in your favor, if you face criminal charges, you should always retain the most experienced criminal lawyer you can afford! After all, your life and freedom may depend upon it!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Will Justice Stevens Retire Soon?

According to numerous news reports, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is expected to announce his retirement soon. As one clear sign of his impending retirement announcement, Supreme Court observers note that Justice Stevens has hired only one law clerk, instead of his usual complement of four law clerks.
Justice Stevens is the oldest Justice on the Court. According to Wikipedia, he will be 90 years old on April 20th. The liberal Justice has served on the Court since 1975.
Supreme Court observers uniformly agree that whomever President Obama selects to replace Justice Stevens is unlikely to upset the Court's current ideological balance. That could occur in the future, however, if even one of the current conservative Justices ever leaves the Court during President Obama's term. What do you think about these developments?